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Focus on Eritrean election part 10

Focus on election 2001 (Part Ten)
By Tesfamicael Yohannes
September 10, 2001
I recall my articles by the same title (Part Eight) May 09, 2001 and (part nine) Sept 7, 2001 at

To grasp what I am talking about in this article it is imperative first to read the two articles mentioned above.

In part eight, I discussed about the plight and fortune of the elites siding with the Eritrean government. I labelled them The "On” side. I said that the "On” side to be favourable for Eritrea’s democratisation they should be granted a livelihood for the future in case they lose power. Otherwise they would not be nice people for democratisation to succeed in Eritrea.

In part nine I mentioned about the opposition groups to the government. I labelled them the "Off” side. I characterize them as fruitless to the democratisation and development of Eritrea. I categorically rejected them as non-viable and weak opposition that brings no change to Eritrean politics. I based my argument that they are for the sake of opposition merely jealousy and hate to the Eritrean government. They lack substance as effective opposition group. Their failure is due to their weakness of not being effective opposition group. If they would have united and base their opposition by substances that brings positive change to our society then they would have won our heart.

Next, we are going to see the potentiality and the effectiveness of the alternative group that are some times with the government and at other time they are in opposition to the government. I labelled them the "On and off” groups. In this group as the leading figure Dr. Berket Habtesalasie could be mentioned. Others are: Mohammed Sheriffo, DR. Araya Debessia, Ex-ambassador Hibret and others.

In Eritrea, democratisation to succeed, totally depends on the peaceful dialogue among the elites with government and in opposition to the government in one hand and the civil society on the other hand. The solution is dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, and thousand times dialogue and again dialogue. Non-stop dialogue. Character assassination, denigrating, blackmailing and sabotage are effective only during war with external enemy. When it comes to internal social problem the method is different. Negative approach is not behaviour of civil society like the gentle and proud Eritrean people. Our fathers and forefathers had the behaviour to dialogue in Biato with respect to each other. Therefore, be it the B13, G15, EPDM, ELF-RC, PFDJ or whatever acronym you have lets come to dialogue.

The Eritrean government seems to avoid and seems to want totally eliminate the potentially alternative group, the G15. These are one exemplary group that were with the government, but which are now in opposition to the government. They matched perfectly to my label the "On and off” side elite group. These are the group, which are hope for future democratisation in Eritrea. I don’t give credit or bother too much about the rumours spread about them. I am aware and well prepared that the elites on the "On” side are going to use all means to crash this group. The elites who were with Mengistu regime did use the same tactic to eliminate opposition groups. Saddam Hussein of Iraq, the late Hafiz Alasad of Syria, Idi amen of Uganda, Siad Baree of Somalia, Meles of Ethiopia and others used the same tactic. That is, they avoided dialogue and chose the stick to silence opposition elites.

I am not pessimistic to the democratisation in Eritrea. But I am afraid that some thing might go wrong. That is, if we avoided dialogue and preferred silencing opposition groups by spreading rumours that will be very dangerous to future Eritrea. I know that the propaganda to terrorize the people by the name unity of the country is going to work very well to the advantage to the government. But this will be short-term victory for the elites on the "On” side. For Eritrea it will be disadvantage, because we are going to miss the opportunity to create civil society. For example, first the rumour about the G15 was corruption. Now the rumour is selling sovereign of Eritrea to Woyane. Taking advantage that we lack civil society in Eritrea the rumours are working very well to the advantage of the government. The situation now in Eritrea reminds me the time of Derg era. Derg was very effective to capitalize the weakness of the society by spreading rumours to defame the opponents. The Derg succeeded to prolong its power by avoiding dialogue. Derg could have solved the Eritrean problem by dialogue. Derg was defaming the Eritrean struggle by saying they are going to sell Eritrea to the Arabs. All that was, using power, to use it stay long by avoiding dialogue.

Look now, what happened to Derg after creating misery and shame to the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The strong man, who was labelling himself the defender of Ethiopian unity, Mengistu Haiemariam fled the country and now he is in Exile. His supportive that were preaching as, Derg the only true representative and vanguard of the Ethiopian people lasted in jail. Like PFDJ the Workers party of Derg was lonely and dominant power in Ethiopia. Without effective opposition party the workers party of Derg did all the mischievous and grave mistakes that threw Ethiopia to the now disastrous situation. The same will happen in Eritrea if PFDJ tries to crush genuine opposition parties like the G15. I think, persons like Sherifo, Haile woldetensia and others have to be encouraged to be effective opposition party. If the PFDJ groups are going to accept pluralism as the only viable and secured way to our stability and welfare we welcome them to lead us even for the next 10 years. As long as they respect humane right, freedom of press, freedom of voluntary civil community, formation of multiparty, freedom of economic participation, respecting the constitution and abide by rule of law the PFDJ could be an exemplary group.

As for the elites on the "On and off” side it is a matter of learning from the past mistakes of the "off” side opposition groups. I expect the "On and off” side to come with concrete program that organize us to be effective opposition party supporters. I would like to see both the "On” side elite and the "On and off” side parties to present their program and everybody to see it for a choice for the coming election 2001. Here I would like to remind to the "On and off” side elite that they to be positive with the existing government and try to harmonize the programmes and schedules for the election 2001 to match with the government. I expect the "On and off” side elites to be gentle and work for harmony and progress of the on going election 2001. It is weakness not to participate on the discussion arranged by the government to ratify the election and party formation drafts. It is wisdom do participate positively and effectively to make the ratification of the laws successful. Who present it is irrelevant. No body is going to get prise for presenting it. People will judge who is democrat and who is hard working by looking at the programmes and activities of the parties. Therefore, it is my wish and pray that the elites on the "On and off” side which are hope for future stability of Eritrea to act as genuine opposition parties by taking measures that includes the interest of the existing government. The fundamental mistake of the elites on the "On and off” side will be if they try to marginalize and exclude the existing governments elite. I tell you they will just invite violence.

Conclusion, In the near future, I expect the Eritrean government to learn from past mistakes and come to dialogue. I expect soon, all members of the central government to come to a dialogue and resolve their problem peacefully. I expect soon, the draft law for election and forming political parties to be ratified. I expect soon, genuine parties to emerge from within PFDJ, two or three this time and all other opposition groups to reconcile their program and merge with these political parties. Let election 2001 will be successful and I hope PIA to continue as a president and the G15 to be the dominant opposition party in the parliament. By doing so, I hope Eritrea to have balance of power between the executive body which is now more experienced in governance than the otters and the opposition party to be effective in checking and scrutinizing the executive body. For us, the masses, let us concentrate to develop a civil society. By civil society I mean by performing intensive civic education to create civility.

Focus on election 2001 part eight dealt with elites who are siding with the government. Part nine dealt with the elites who are totally against the Eritrean government and part ten dealt with the elites who are some time with the existing government and on the other time opposing it. Even though I mentioned names, which some time I feel guilty that I crossed the red line, nevertheless, I did it by paying great respect and admiration to their talent and at some times I considered them as my favourites. I hope they will forgive me for my naivety and some time my stupidity to mention their name without due consent to their knowledge.

God bless Eritrea

Tesfamicael Yohannes
Oslo, Norway.

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